BY Avi Issacharoff and Raoul Wootlif, Times of Israel—
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to attend Shimon Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem tomorrow, at the head of a PA delegation, Palestinian and Israeli officials said Thursday.
Abbas’s office contacted the head of COGAT, Israel’s civilian authority in the Palestinian territories, Yoav Mordechai, to coordinate the president’s attendance, a COGAT statement said.
The bureau of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the okay for the visit, several Hebrew media outlets reported a short time later, citing a senior diplomatic official.
A senior Palestinian official confirmed that Abbas was seeking to attend the funeral.
The official said Abbas wanted to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres.”
Army Radio reported late Thursday that Peres’s family had contacted Abbas and asked him to attend.
Abbas will be joined by a delegation comprising senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, security chief Majid Faraj and Muhammad Al-Madani, who heads up relations with Israelis. Former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei may also attend.
The PA’s official news agency Wafa reported Wednesday afternoon that Abbas had sent a condolence letter to Peres’s family, following the death of the former president at the age of 93.
Abbas expressed his “sadness and sorrow,” and wrote that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister (Yitzhak) Rabin.” He added that Peres “made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.”
Leaders of Arab states are likely to be noticeably absent from Peres’s Friday funeral, which is set to be attended by dozens of prime ministers, presidents and dignitaries from around the world.
Peres was a key architect of the Oslo Accords, which were meant to pave the way toward Palestinian statehood. In his later years as president, he was seen as an ardent peace activist and worked to foster ties between Israel and the Arab world, including reportedly holding secret peace talks with Abbas in 2011.
Among those planning to attend the funeral at Mount Herzl are US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, German President Joachim Gauck, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, former British prime minister David Cameron and Britain’s Prince Charles.
Egyptian media reported late Wednesday that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi would send his foreign minister Sameh Shoukry to represent Egypt at the funeral, and that Sissi had yet to decide whether he would attend, but there was no immediate official confirmation of Shoukry’s attendance.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has yet to comment on the former Israeli president’s death, and there was silence, too, from other Arab capitals, in an echo of the “old” Middle East peace that Peres sought so fervently to change.
AP contributed to this report